What is it about you having a lousy night’s sleep that makes everyone else around us seem so awful? You have a night of broken, interrupted, just plain bad sleep, and the next day people are driving like idiots and asking you the same stupid question at work that you’ve already answered half a dozen times. Seriously, is the universe just messing with you? Maybe. But a more likely explanation is that your lack of sleep is making it impossible for you to react rationally to frustrating situations. Researchers from the University of Arizona released a study back in 2006 that showed people who were deprived of sleep over a 55 hour period had:
• An increased tendency to blame others for problems
• Reduced willingness to alleviate a conflict situation by accepting blame
• Increased aggression
• Lower willingness to behave in ways that facilitate effective social interaction
I know this might not seem like especially earth-shattering news, but it speaks to a broader point. So let’s imagine that you and your partner are the proud parents of a new baby which means you have to make a zillion decisions about parenting and come to agreements with your partner.
How SLEEP DEPRIVATION Affects Your Relationship
What time should we put him to bed? What do we do when he starts crying? Who is handling night wakings? Are we going to breastfeed? Are we able to? How will we discipline? Those are all questions that need to be agreed upon and then reevaluated if things aren’t going smoothly. So here you are, faced with all of these decisions, you’re frustrated because things aren’t going smoothly to begin with, and to top it all off, your ability to recognize and respond to each other in a rational, civilized manner has been seriously compromised. Two people forced to debate the most important decisions they’re likely to make in their lives, and you are doing it while sleep deprived. On top of that, couples who don’t get enough sleep are less likely to show gratitude towards each other, and significantly more likely to feel unappreciated, according to Amie Gordon, a doctorate candidate in social-personality psychology at UC Berkeley. And as though that’s not enough, consider the fact that lack of sleep decreases libido. Yikes. Now, loads of couples get through this period in their lives with their partnership intact, and I’m not trying to suggest that sleep deprivation is going to be the end of your relationship but it certainly doesn’t help.
Babies are amazing though, right? What can possibly compare with those first few months when you and your partner stand over the crib together and look down on that precious new life that the two of you created together? The closeness you feel to your partner at that time is unmatched, and it’s a period in your life that deserves to be cherished. That’s not so easy to do if you and your partner are constantly fighting because neither of you are getting enough sleep. There are so many reasons to make your little one’s sleep a priority when it comes to their well-being, but I’d ask you to take a selfish little detour for a moment and consider what it can mean for you, your partner, and your relationship. After all, if there’s one gift your kids always appreciate, it’s seeing their parents happy, united, and in love.
Commit to getting your little one sleeping through the night and see how you feel once you’re all getting the rest you need. The results, I promise you, are nothing short of amazing.
I remember the night our daughter climbed out of her crib for the first time. She was just barely 2 years old and she showed up in our bed in the middle of the night that night. I about had a heart attack! Our girl is a pretty skilled climber so I wasn't terribly worried about her injuring herself, but the chance is always there. Not knowing any better, we thought our only option was to switch to a toddler bed straight away. Aaaaddd....surprise! It didn't go well. If this is a familiar situation to you, here are some tips before making that switch to a big kid bed!
My recommendation is to wait until as close to age 3 as possible to make the switch. Most children under this age are just not capable of handling the freedom.
1. Evaluate how skillfully they are climbing. Obviously if they are diving out of their
crib head first, you have to do something about it right away. But if they are not
hurting themselves, then you can try calmly returning them to the crib and
explaining that they are not allowed to get out. Do this 3 or 4 times and if they
continue, then return them to their crib without saying anything. Many kids enjoy
any attention at all even if it is negative, so when you don’t react, the game is no
2. Does your crib have a short side and a tall side? Flip the crib around so that the
short side is against a wall. The tall side is often tall enough that the child can’t
3. Take the bottom of the crib out so that the mattress is literally on the floor. Make
sure this is a safe set up with your particular crib. There should be no space
between the mattress and the bottom of the crib. This can make enough of a
difference that your child can no longer climb out.
4. Use a sleep sack or “crib pants”. Get a large sleep sack and put it on backwards
so your toddler can’t unzip it. You can make your own “crib pants” by sewing a
small piece of fabric between the legs of your child’s pajamas. This should make
it too difficult for your child to climb up and swing their legs over the crib!
When you do make the switch, I recommend going straight to a twin or full-sized bed. Then be very clear about the rules! An okay-to-wake alarm clock and reward systems are helpful. But the key is to enforce your rule of staying in bed. Good Luck!
Babies cry for lots of reasons...this is their only way of communication after all! But how do you know if your baby is actually hungry each time they are waking in the night?? This can be one of parent's biggest struggles. Most of us, myself included, are consumed by making sure our children are getting enough calories and nutrition each day. Both of my own children were tiny babies and have always been on the low end of the growth chart so I'm especially sensitive to this whole idea. Dropping that last night feeding was extremely difficult and worrisome for me so I completely understand the struggle. Here are a few things for you to consider if your baby is waking in the night.
Are they over 6 months of age? 6 months is a good benchmark and typically the age where a baby can sleep through the night. Of course you should talk with your pediatrician first and make sure your baby's growth is on track but chances are if your baby has reached this mark and is still waking, then their night feedings are probably more so habitual rather than actual hunger or caloric need. Some infants sleep through the night much sooner, so if that's your baby, don't be worried! Thank your lucky stars!!
Are they eating enough during the day? Is your baby getting good solids and taking full feedings during the day? If not, you may be in a vicious cycle of more calories in the night than in the day and will need to make a switch. Babies will very quickly make up lost calories from the night the following day. But if they are getting adequate daytime calories then you can be more confident that they don't need the extra calories at night.
Is baby falling asleep quickly when you feed them? The scenario looks like this- your baby just went to sleep an hour ago but is up again crying, you offer a feeding and they take an ounce before they pass out again. There is a good chance they are only feeding for comfort/assistance falling asleep rather than hunger.
Let's say your baby does take a full feeding. Do they go back to sleep for a good long 3-4 hour stretch afterwards? If not then again the wakings are more likely due to comfort and sucking than hunger. Some babies just have a very strong feed/sleep association and so this needs to be broken in order for your child to sleep through the night. We call this a prop or crutch. If your child falls asleep at bedtime nursing or taking a bottle, then they will ineveitably have wakings in the night where they need the breast or bottle again. That's because this is the only way they know how to fall asleep! When they learn to fall asleep without their prop, then they will be able to get themselves back to sleep in the night without it. Babies who know how to fall asleep independently sleep through the night much earlier than other babies.
I hope this helps you to distinguish what's going on with your little one! I know that dropping feedings can be a tough process so I'm here if you need me!
Oh those dreaded early morning wakings!!! I'm not a coffee drinker but man when I get hit with a streak of early wakings from my little guy, I wish I was! There can be many reasons for early wakings but first off, if your child normally sleeps until a decent hour and the wakings start out of the blue, it may just be a phase that will last a week or 2. So, don't panic! You may just have to ride it out. However, here are some things to consider and tips to try especially if it has been going on for a long time!
-Make sure your child's room is DARK! It should be as dark at 6:00AM as it is at 4:00AM. During summertime, it gets light outside earlier, and even the slightest bit of light coming in can wake a child. Invest in some good black out shades or blinds. You may even have to double up with blinds and then black out shades on top.
-Try to keep your baby in the dark room until your minimum wake up time. Ex. 6:00AM. If you consistently get them up for the day and out into the light it can make your babies body clock and melatonin levels set to waking at the too early time.
-With an older baby, create a buffer before you offer the first feeding. If you get your baby out of the crib at 6:00AM, wait 5-10 minutes before you offer the first feeding. This creates just enough space that they won't be waking in anticipation of the feeding.
-Make sure your baby isn't cold. The body temperature drops around 4:00AM. Use socks or sleep sacks and warm jammies to keep your baby comfortable all night.
-If your baby eats solids, make sure they are getting solids with plenty of good fats and proteins throughout the day.
-Tinker with the bedtime. More often than not, the bedtime is too late so try a half hour earlier for a week or so. I know this sounds backwards but it may be that your baby is overtired. If this doesn't work then try a half hour later than the original bedtime.
-Make sure your child is getting the right amount of daytime sleep at the right times for their age. Too much or too little daytime sleep can cause issues with morning wake time.
I hope your child's early wakings are short-lived and that these tips are helpful! Hang in there, moms and dads. I'm sending strength your way!
Does this sound familiar?
Your baby wakes up in the morning. You feed her, change her, play with her for a while, maybe feed her again and then rock her to sleep and put her gingerly into her crib for her morning nap.
And then, 30 minutes later, she wakes up fussy and irritable and, despite your pleading, refuses to go back to sleep. So after half an hour of trying to put her back down, you finally give in, hoping she’ll be that much more tired when her afternoon nap rolls around, only to have the exact same scenario play out again, and baby is cranky the rest of the day!
So here’s what’s going on, and how to fix it. Babies, just like the rest of us, sleep in cycles. We start off in a light state where we’re easily woken up, then gradually fall into a deeper stage where even loud noises or movement might not be able to rouse us. This is the good stuff. This is the really restorative, restful sleep where our brains and bodies do all of the maintenance work that leaves us feeling refreshed. Once we’ve come to the end of the deep-sleep cycle, we slowly start coming back to the light stage again, and typically we wake up for a few seconds and then drift off again, and the whole thing starts again.
In adults, one of those cycles typically takes about an hour and a half. In babies, it can be as little as 30 minutes. So the fact that your baby is waking up after only 30 minutes is actually completely natural. “But,” you’re thinking, “I have friends whose babies nap for two or three hours at a time.” Well, that’s partially true. But in a more literal sense, they’re stringing together several sleep cycles in a row. The only difference between their baby and your baby is…they’ve learned how to fall back to sleep on their own. That’s it. That really is the heart of the issue. Once your baby can fall asleep without help, they’ll start stringing together those sleep cycles. That’s going to make your baby a whole lot happier and, probably you too!
So remember back at the start of that scenario, there you were, getting ready to put baby down for her nap, gently feeding and rocking her to sleep and then putting her down in her crib. Stop right there. That’s where you need to make some changes. Because in this scenario, you are acting as what we in the sleep consulting business refer to as a “sleep prop.” Sleep props are basically anything that your baby uses to make the transition from awake to asleep. Putting baby down awake to find sleep on their own is the key.
Some other pointers for extending baby’s nap time…
● Keep the bedroom as dark as possible. Buy some blackout blinds if the sun is getting in,
or if you’re on a budget, tape some black garbage bags over the windows. It doesn’t
have to be pretty, it just has to be functional.
● White noise machines are useful if baby tends to wake up due to the neighbor’s barking
dog, siblings running around like banshees, or any other noise that might startle them out of their nap.
Just make sure it’s not too close to their ears and not too loud. 50 dB is the recommended limit.
● If you’re running into trouble putting your baby in their crib awake, that's where I can help.
Sleep training is not an easy process for every baby and can be even more difficult for you as the parent.
Shoot me an email so we can chat!
Has your baby started rolling?! This can be such an exciting milestone as a first-time parent but it can also be disruptive to sleep!
Maybe your babe has made it onto their tummy and now they are stuck and are MAD! If this happens, you have to go in and roll them back over simple as that. The best thing you can do in this situation is to encourage lots of "rolling practice" during the daytime. Have tummy or floor time several times a day and allow your baby to practice those skills. The quicker they master rolling both ways, the sooner they will stop getting "stuck" while trying to sleep.
Some parents get very anxious when their baby first starts making it onto their tummy and falls asleep that way. It has after all been drilled into our heads that babies have to be put down on their back to sleep. But that is the important distinction. Put your baby down for sleep on their back but if they can get to their tummy all by themselves, then you are okay to leave them there for sleep. There is no reason to flip them onto their back if they are comfortable and peacefully sleeping on their tummy.
Most importantly, make sure you STOP swaddling by the time your baby starts rolling. It is a suffocation hazzard for baby's arms to be swaddled in when they start to roll. The American Academy of Pediatrics has now started recommeding that swaddling be stopped by 8 weeks old. To transition out, start swaddling with one arm out for a few days and then both arms out. Then you can go straight to a sleep sack.